Loc: San Carlos, CA
Trip: Suiattle Crest 50 Mile Adventure Run
Trip Report: Colin Abercrombie and I completed a 50 mile adventure run loop in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that includes 12,500+ ft of elevation gain and passes through six passes (Little Giant Pass, High Pass, Buck Creek Pass, Suiattle Pass, Cloudy Pass, Spider Gap). We did the loop in 13:37, but our progress was often slowed by stops to photograph the amazing scenery. A large portion of this extremely aesthetic loop follows near the Cascade crest along the Suiattle River drainage, hence the name “Suiattle Crest 50 mile.” While we climbed no summits, the alpine flavor and grand vistas along the way make this a classic outing.
Colin designed this giant loop which is remarkably close to 50 miles in distance and covers virtually all the highlights in the region. There are essentially two scenic areas of the loop – the Napeequa Valley/High Pass region and the Lyman Lakes area – separated by 10+ miles of relatively uninteresting trail in the woods between Buck Creek Pass and Suiattle Pass, with a significant extra hill climb over Middle Ridge. We started at Little Giant TH and I recommend doing the route clockwise beginning with the climb up to Little Giant Pass. The first 16 miles from Little Giant TH to High Pass are the most arduous with the steepest climbs, brush (very wet and very cold from dew in the morning), some off-trail travel, and routefinding issues. After High Pass, the complexities are mainly over as the trails improve allowing for more running. Doing the loop clockwise provides for a relatively easy 13-mile finish along the Phelps Creek Trail and dirt road from Phelps Creek TH back to Little Giant TH. A shorter option that is very popular with backpackers is the ~37 mile Spider Gap/Buck Creek Pass Loop. This option avoids the complexities of Napeequa Valley and the ascent to High Pass, but the beautiful scenery in the Napeequa Valley and around High Pass is well worth the extra effort and mileage.
Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time Little Giant TH (2,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 04:55 Little Giant Pass (6,409 ft) : 1:35:24 / 1:35:24 / 06:30 High Pass (6,876 ft) : 5:35:31 / 4:00:06 / 10:31 Buck Creek Pass (5,796 ft) : 6:43:15 / 1:07:43 / 11:38 Cloudy Pass (6,420 ft) : 9:18:52 / 2:35:37 / 14:14 Spider Gap (7,040 ft) : 11:00:02 / 1:41:09 / 15:55 Phelps Creek TH (3,500 ft) : 12:42:38 / 1:42:36 / 17:38 Little Giant TH (2,600 ft) : 13:37:23 / 54:45 / 18:42
Clark Mountain from Little Giant Pass
Clark Mountain and Richardson Glacier
Luahna and Pilz Glacier
Glacier Peak from High Pass
View across Buck Creek Valley to Fortress and Chiwawa
Upper Suiattle River
Miners Ridge and Plummer Mountain
Carpet of trees below Suiattle Pass
Agnes Creek Valley from near Suiattle Pass
View of Lyman Lakes Basin and Chiwawa Mountain from Cloudy Pass
Panorama from Cloudy Pass
Lower Lyman Lake
Lyman Glacier Remnant
Spider Meadows and Phelps Creek Valley
Gear Notes: La Sportiva Fireblade Trail Running Shoes, SaltStick electrolyte caps, Clif Shot Bloks, Ultimate Direction Handholders and the Ultimate Direction Wasp pack.
Approach Notes: The forest service has done a good job logging out the Little Giant Pass Trail and the Phelps Creek Trail. Napeequa Valley is brushy, and the brush is very wet and very cold in the morning! The path up to High Pass is difficult to spot as it climbs from the Napeequa Valley, but it is worth looking for. The path is a bit overgrown, but nothing compared to the slide alder mess you will encounter otherwise. There are a few large logs remaining on the stretch between Buck Creek Pass and Suiattle Pass to jump over or walk around.
Wow! With your great pictures coming through so often, I guess I can quit buying coffee table books! Great effort and TR. My wife and I did the Spider/Lyman Lake/Image Lake/Buck Creek Pass loop 30 years ago in 5 days and thought we were moving pretty well.
Loc: San Carlos, CA
Piggybacking off my post from three years ago, I did the same "Suiattle Crest 50 Mile" adventure run last week in 11h44m (1h53m faster) starting from Little Giant TH. While no summits were climbed, this complete loop covers most of the highlights in this region of the Glacier Peak Wilderness including a breathtaking view from Little Giant Pass, a tour through wild Napeequa Valley, 360 vistas from the High Pass area, verdant wildflower meadows, stunning Lyman Lakes, and Spider Gap. It's quintessential cascades scenery - well worth a revisit after three years. With GPS, I found that total elevation gain is actually higher (near 14,000 ft), but distance is a couple miles short of 50 miles. The route/trails are in essentially the same condition as three years ago: Napeequa valley is still quite brushy (and wet in the morning) and the climb up to High Pass is nicely hidden - the use path starts at the far end of the meadow near the cascading stream and it's worth spending the time to find it since the slide alder is unsavory in this area.
It’s sad to note the recession of the Lyman Glacier, which is essentially now a remnant ice patch. Despite relatively healthy snowpacks the last couple years, the glacier has continued to lose thickness appearing noticeably smaller than my visit in 2009 with the terminus even starting to recede from the last glacial lake. It seems only a matter of time before Lyman's permanent ice vanishes entirely. This is one stark example of how global warming is changing the North Cascades. For those who are interested, some video, photos, and time splits from the August 2012 version of the adventure run are located below.
Simplified route on aerial image
Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time (difference 2012 vs. 2009) Little Giant TH (2,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 06:40 Little Giant Pass (6,409 ft) : 1:18:36 / 1:18:36 / 07:59 (-17) High Pass (6,876 ft) : 4:30:18 / 3:11:41 / 11:10 (-1:05) Buck Creek Pass (5,796 ft) : 5:39:01 / 1:08:46 / 12:19 (-1:04) Cloudy Pass (6,420 ft) : 8:10:20 / 2:31:19 / 14:50 (-1:08) Spider Gap (7,040 ft) : 9:32:11 / 1:21:50 / 16:12 (-1:28) Phelps Creek TH (3,500 ft) : 11:01:50 / 1:29:38 / 17:42 (-1:41) Little Giant TH (2,600 ft) : 11:44:19 / 42:29 / 18:24 (-1:53)